For anyone with an interest in fast Fords the factory floor at M-Sport’s Cumbrian headquarters is enough to have you going a little weak at the knees. Accessed through the grand entrance of Dovenby Hall, you walk through the plush hallway of a posh stately home, past wood-paneled dining rooms lined with rallying silverware and then through a door into a very different environment. Here, in a huge, immaculately clean, modern open plan workshop is where rallying dreams come true.
M-Sport is best known for its close links to Ford and status as factory WRC team in all but name. But it also builds Bentley GT3 cars and racing versions of the electric Jaguar iPace for a support series running alongside Formula E. Rallying Fiestas of all types remain the core of the business though.
And from first steps as a privateer or rookie through to the highest levels of the sport M-Sport has the car to support you, and the expertise and resources to support it.
There’s so much to take in it’s hard to know where to start. But the plain yellow R5 Fiesta sitting ready to go on its gold OZs looks as good a place as any. We’re not allowed any photos within the assembly hall so you’ll just have to take it from me – anyone looking for inspiration for a badass conversion for an ST has all the ingredients here, the tarmac spec slamming it to the deck, the wheels filling out the swollen arches and the back end topped off with a big, boomerang-shaped wing.
To the uninitiated, it may look like a Fiesta in a body kit but under the skin these R5 Fiestas – and the new generation version just coming on stream – are as close to bread and butter as M-Sport gets. With four-wheel drive, a sequential ‘box and a healthy 280hp (officially, at least) they cost about as much as a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. But are rather more capable in the mud. Around 300 of them have been sold by M-Sport to privateers and customer teams, the (relatively) cost-controlled regulations for WRC2 keeping a lid on build and running expenses.
A couple of bays further on is the real deal though, team driver Elfyn Evans chatting with the engineers around the in-build Fiesta WRC he’ll be driving in Wales Rally GB after a lay-up with a back injury. His car is basically a shell at the moment, the transition between standard Fiesta and WRC monster clearly visible where the (currently unpainted) carbon aero extensions are bonded onto the existing panel work.
The adjoining workshops are where the real magic happens though. One room is full of lathes and CNC machines busy turning lumps of aluminium billet into suspension uprights or milling out the standard engine blocks that turn regular Ford EcoBoost's into R5 engines. These share fundamentals with road car motors but the WRC engines are next level, inspired by the production engine but built from custom machined billet engine blocks and sealed for the season according to regulations. Costing nearly as much as an entire R5 car, they use a 36mm restrictor, 2.5bar of boost and are limited to 8,500rpm, officially delivering 380hp. Our guide’s sly grin as he shares this stat suggests it may be a rather healthy 380hp.
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